Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

IWFS DINNER MEDTECA - Great wine, so so food.

‘Southern Mediterranean Style dinner at MediTeca Restaurant – 23rd January 2013’

Fresh from the fabulous success that was the president's Charity Dinner at Cilantro in December, the IWFS Kuala Lumpur kicked off the New Year with a belated bash at a recently opened Spanish and Italian fusion venue.  On paper it looked a reasonable deal - getting to sit down in one of the new go-to restaurants in the city offering an interesting take on Spanish and Italian cuisine with some tasty looking wines. Always an irrestistible prospect.

It's often important to determine a standpoint and the context from which one offers comment or opinion. Opinions can have certain pre-determined perspectives and implicit views and attitudes toward the thing being reviewed which can colour and distort.  There can be various agendas working either with or against each other, so it's good to spell out the expectations. We are paying fairly top dollar at these places so we expect something beyond the default weekend food haunts. For my part, the IWFS tends to respond as to how well a restaurant  caters to a large group, whether the ambiance, service and food quality kept to good standards, and how well the wine matches the food. We all seek to learn and improve by sharing experiences. The agenda here is one of seeking to facilitate improvement through constructive comment for mutual enjoyment and letting good establishments become excellent and subsequently great players for the long term. Everyone benefits from this standpoint.

It's also good to bear in mind that these reports are often based on a single visit, which is not really the proper way to judge a restaurant. We can all have bad days that result from a range of circumstances not all of which are always within our control. Strictly speaking, one should return to the restaurant and experience the food and service in a different context to allow the passing of a more considered judgement. So these writings tend to be responses rather than reviews. There is a difference, though it often gets lost given our tendencies to view restaurants as all or nothing propositions - would we go back or not? Get one bad waiter or prawn and we never return and make sure everyone knows why. There are so many other restaurants out there. People can be a fickle bunch...

So.....    MediTeca is quite a new establishment which has quickly gained a reputation as one of THE new places to eat.  The cuisine is a combination of Spanish Tapas and Italian Enoteca, hence the name and concept - Mediterranean and Enoteca. The ambience is modern rustic, with clean lines and a show kitchen for diners to view the activities of the chef and crew.  A La Carte offers an array of Tapas, cold cuts, cheeses and bocadillos as well as a menu of modern takes on classic Meditteranean dishes. 

Executive Chef Riccardo Ferrarotti has over ten years in culinary management. This young professional kindled his passion for food working in this father's restaurant in the small mountain village of Biella in Northern Italy before gaining his experience in the USA, UAE, China and now in Malaysia since March 2008.

The Lenglui
Resident foodie David had reported a number of good experiences and it seemed the Committee tasting clearly went well enough to go forward with a full function for the members. Numbers had been restricted to 40 given constraints in the restaurant.  The Committee food tasting had taken place in the upstairs section, where the room proved to be chilly thanks to some superduper cooling air conditioning. It was also somewhat noisy thanks to a super sparkling sound system that was subwoofing subtantially loud. Consequently, the dinner itself took place at the downstairs section where it proved to be nicely quiet but somewhat warm and indeed stickily so. Many members felt the need to divest jackets and roll up the sleeves to cool down.

Lenglui and I had arrived early due to a need to discuss upcoming travels with a fellow member and when the dear service lady asked so pleasantly if would we like some of the Cava whilst waiting for the others it was so very difficult to say no. So it was that we got the first taste of the Bodegas Muga Cava Conde de Haro and what a delightful taste it proved to be. A blend of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia from oak vats, this was clean and crisp fizz. The tasting notes spoke of tangy fruit and floral aromas underpinned with bottle time honey and vanilla notes, generating a honeyed yet fresh sensation on the palate, thanks to its significant acidity. We found it nicely balanced, with pleasant acidity and excellent biscuit on both nose and palate leading to a cleansing firm, full and foamy finish. Lovely bubbly.

Delays due to the nightly traffic jam in the city meant that the start was delayed. Those who had arrived early and avoided the worst of KL's inner city roads did not seem to be complaining, happily quaffing away at the fizz and doing the schmoozing rounds. 

Wine Sub Comm Chairman Prakash brought us to order and got us seated, saying a few words about the wine and the restaurant, and we were off. The Tapas Platter Starter came quickly out of the blocks and ended up being the best dish of the night. Spicliy mild gazpacho in a shot glass gave a coating to the top and sides of the throat that needed more fizz to scrape it clean. Delicate octopus in various sauces made for a lovely amuse bouche and appetiser, as did a fluffily firm though somewhat oaky Gorgonzola croquette which rounded out the biscuit and yeast notes in the Cava. Star One was the Octopus doused in squid ink whic made for a nasty salty yet firmly crunchy swallow. Star Two was the Marinated Sardines in White Vinegar, Garlic & Barley which zipped massively across the tongue and set the fizz on fire! Most pleasant.

The second wine came out as the plates got cleared. A blend of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia (WA 90, WS 88) the tasting notes for the Rioja Blanco 2011 spoke of hints of canned fruit in syrup that was given structure and balance by some malic acid resulting from grapetime on fine lees. For me, It tasted of the sea - a clean, lean yet floral nose with some spice notes that wafted like a salty breeze across the tongue. A hint of flint, well balanced and firm body, soft soursop fruit on the palate with a tart lemon finish. Would have been a belter with oysters and cockles and sat listening to the rush of waves and gulls on a Spanish shore. Memo to self - load the iPod with Sounds of Nature for the next function.

The Seafood Paella came on a plate that was meant to be shared by two people. Not sure if anything happened between kitchen and table but ours came out with not a lot of seafood. One clam and two prawns to be exact, with what looked like occasional chopped calamari, and baby ones at that. The paella had a dried, glutinous quality that didn't really sit well on the palate. Perhaps it had sat too long somewhere else. Equally, the dish lacked fire and bite. I feel great Paella requires some degree of differentiation between rice and sauce that felt quite absent on this presentation. Malaysians will know the taste of Claypot Chicken Rice. The MediTeca Paella had the texture of claypot rice without the spice and fire that is the hallmark tongue teaser for that dish. The MediTeca Paella had not much tomato, and not really that much of anything that made the dish distinctive.  It did help bring out a fine oloroso sherry quality in the wine, though. A fine electricity-like fire across the wire that filled the mouth with sparks and spice. It cut nicely through the glue of the paella. 

My notes speak of the food being a bit slow coming from the kitchen. Indeed, some tables had their food quite some time ahead of others. One would guess that the kitchen cannot quite cope with the large numbers at this time. We were patiently chomping on the bread which was somewhat oversalted. This became a good excuse to call for more wine from the charming ladies walking around with the bottles who obliged quite happily.

Pairing with the fish course was the Nuestra Sra del Portal White 2010 from Batea in Terra Alta in Catalonia. The notes spoke of a young bright pale yellow/green fruity and aromatic wine with a powerful suggestion of scrubland herbs and tropical fruit (pineapple, banana, pear and lychees) with a juicy mouthfeel and fresh, well balanced acidity. For me, it was crisp apple on the nose which gave way to nectarine and rock melon in the mouth. A wine of clear complexity, and able to be savoured in the proper surroundings. As with most IWFS sessions, most of us were well on the way to Merryland to be too bothered with the finer niceties of the glug. Self included. But I try.

The Confit of Black Cod with Sauteed Peppers & Green Pea sauce came out warm but ultimately somewhat bland. The notes say it seemed to have variable texture, some firm and well cooked with other bits slightly more softer in texture and more easy going in the mouth. Not much else to say. Underwhelming. The veggies were good and firm. 

The Crusted Rack of Lamb, Cauliflower Puree & Crushed Pistachios was also a bit cold and somewhat underdone for personal taste, though not so much as to be unacceptable. it was....  okay. Not stunning, not startling, not something that would go uneaten, just... okay. It was large and there was a lot of it, with the cutlets clearly coming from a more aged lamb and as a result having the texture of such. Perhaps I have been spoiled with baby lamb rack which, when cooked simply in olive oil and garlic with parsley, is heavenly. This presentation had a little bit too much meat on the plate - perhaps more for the muy macho eaters than the more sophisticated patatal demands of the foodie. The sweet jus gave a French feel to the dish rather than a pure sense of Mediterranean.  One would wish that restaurants would learn to leave the jus on the side. Some of us like the meat unadulterated save maybe for a hint of salt or pepper. The bones also had a black stripe along the middle which was a new touch. Not quite sure of the rationale for this, though the stripe gave an impression of the poor thing having undergone some kind of Hammer House of Horror preparation ritual.  The Black Striped Lamb of The Pyrenees, muahahahaha.....

The two wines chosen to pair with the lamb were the total business. First out was the Onomastica 2004, a Rioja by Carlos Serres. The notes say it has an intense, deep maroon colour with aromas of black fruit, vanilla and dark chocolate with hints of spices and mineral notes. A generous, full bodied wine with fleshy fruit and a long finish (ST 92, WE 92). This Rioja was lovely. Medium body, full fruit and great balance, with a fantastic finish. Wonderfully drinkable on its own, it cut through the lamb nicely, making for an excellent match. 

Second out was the Montecastro y Lianahermosa Tinto 2007. Hailing from Bodegas y Vinedos Montecastro in Ribera Del Duero, this blend of  96% Tinto Fino, 3% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon was totally off the map and with a few latitude lines to spare. The notes told of "expressive aromas of ripe red and black fruits and aromatic herbs with mineral undertones. Full bodied and fleshy palate with big structure and tannins. A well balanced, powerful wine." (ST 91, WA 90, WS 90). And so it indeed proved to be. Full, massive fruit, with great balance and bite, chewy plum and damson, with a hint of cassis and an endless finish. I have no notes as to whether it went with the lamb. On reflection, It didn't matter; the wine was meal enough on its own. The total business. 

Here again, the tardiness of the kitchen in getting the food sent out became apparent. Several members felt the need to leave ahead of the dessert, and those that stayed for it left quickly after it got to the table. The dessert was actually worth the wait - the Banana Fritter with Banana Toffee & Vanilla Ice Cream had sweet banana in light crispy possibly peanut oil batter, each balancing the other most pleasantly with the ice cream giving the butter foundation to let the ensemble work its delightful magic. I tried the chocolate, but have no notes nor memory of it. I preferred to do battle with the remains of the Montecastro since the delightful ladies with the bottles were most insistent on refilling my glass, Perhaps they also wanted to get home. 

Me eating a pen - still hungry, I guess...
In sum, excellent wines, visually pleasing but only so-so food, pleasant staff, restaurant a bit too warm, and slow service from the kitchen. Kudos to Wine Sub Comm Chair Prakash for excellent wine choices and kudos to Chef for the visual aspect of the food. As previously indicated, one perspective from which we review is how the restaurant copes with a large number of patrons, and sadly MediTeca didn't seem to make the full grade on this outing.  Worth a definite visit for the Tapas with a glass of textured white. The mains need another try when the restaurant has less numbers to cope with.

All photos courtesy of Jan Shaw.

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